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Canada to purchase 88 F-35s

written by Liam Garman | January 10, 2023

A F-35 Lightning II aircraft from RAAF Base Williamtown flies off the coast near Newcastle (Defence, FSGT Mick Bott)

Canada has announced it will procure a fleet of 88 F-35As to replace its ageing CF-18 Hornets.

As part of the agreement, signed off by the US, the country will also procure a tailored sustainment solution, information technology and software support as well as a training program.

It significantly comes weeks after the German Ministry of Defence announced it would join the fifth generation fighter program and purchase 35 of the A variant.

The Canadian acquisition finalises the country’s Future Fighter Capability Project, a competitive program to facilitate the acquisition of a new fighter jet to replace the CF-18 legacy aircraft and support its NORAD and NATO commitments.

Other aircraft in the competition included Saab’s Gripen E and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet.


According to the Canadian government, the first aircraft is scheduled for delivery in 2026, with the fleet expected to be in operation beyond 2060.

Some aircraft are expected to be initially based in Arizona at the F-35A Pilot Training Center in Luke Air Force Base to enable training to take place while local infrastructure in Canada is being completed.

US Air Force Lieutenant General Mike Schmidt, program executive officer F-35 Joint Program Office, explained that the acquisition enables “unmatched interoperability” between Canada and allied nations.

“Canada is our friend and a close ally. Their decision to procure almost 90 jets underscores the value of the incredible F-35 Lightning II,” he explained.

“The F-35 is the best in the world, providing unmatched interoperability to America, Canada and the additional 15 nations that have selected the fighter. It is a global game changer. Through power projection, the F-35 is at the tip of the spear for deterrence. Its forward presence will continue to ensure that potential adversaries choose diplomacy over armed conflict.”

Australia currently has a fleet of 54 F-35s, and over the next 12 months will increase that to at least 72 as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program.

The aircraft comes in three variants: the F-35A — purchased by Australia — is a conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) version; the F-35B is a short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the final F-35C is the carrier type (CV).

Australia purchased the aircraft to replace the RAAF’s F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets, which were in service since 1985 and retired in late 2021.

Germany’s deal, meanwhile, includes the provision of engines, role-specific mission equipment, spare and replacement parts, technical and logistic support, training and armament.

The F-35 fleet is expected to replace the Luftwaffe’s retiring Panavia Tornado multi-role combat aircraft.

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